Steven Goodman does a lot of good at the Educational Video Center with his documentary workshops, where students spend their time brainstorming and winnowing ideas until they reach a consensus on a topic of their choice on which to produce a documentary film. The fact that a trend in reoccurring topics arises each year is of no surprise, in this society, where topics involving both youth, crime and violence meet the repercussions in today’s society and see the lack in variation of how youth meet an almost pre-determined fate to end up in the prison system. Through Goodman’s writing, we read about how the urban social world is described by these kids, and Goodman and the EVC mentors “work with the teens to develop these topics further, so that they have depth and scope for themselves and viewers [….],” because after all, that is the key to self-understanding, having a better understanding of our society, and having a foundation for knowing how to confront these frustrating sources.

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“Instead of watching the clock like in school, they lose track of time — arriving early, working into the evenings, on weekends and even school holidays – they are in the “flow.” They learn to ask their own questions, uncover problems, propose solutions, and follow their explorations where ever they may lead. They present their final documentary, to public audiences of friends, family, teachers, and community members. Their work is validated in all its richness and creativity not with a single number or letter grade, but as it should be: through community appreciation, questioning, conversation and reflection.” –EVC

The second cluster of topics that remain a repeated trend include the entertainment industry and its influence on how they wish for their involvement to one day help them “escape mundane invisibility.”

Who has social authority? What topics dominate the lives of these youth? The journey from adolescents to adulthood for low income, minority youth can be grueling and the problems they face can be addressed through documentary film, as they are identified and explored for conversation by these youth. As a sense of powerlessness grows, their actions may respond to two systems of authority that have rendered low-income, minority youth to feel voiceless: institutions and mass media.

Goodman reveals the two very different narratives that have shaped and determined how inner-city, minorities are ‘dealt’ with and through the EVC Doc workshops, those rendered voiceless are given documentary filmmaking as a platform to tell their stories, their POV’s, their stories, to reclaim their voices and to respond to these two systems of authority that have, for too long, exploited them.

This class, Media and Social Change, has done the same thing for me. I feel it has given me a way to see how a voiceless person can reclaim a sense of self-awareness and authority through video rather than through impulsive actions or submitting to behaviors that ultimately “give-in” to these systems of authority.  It’s empowering to see how different mediums can help one reclaim his voice in a very overwhelming society.

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About Hannah M. Webster

Hannah M. Webster Los Angeles, California Hannah M. Webster works with clients to develop their brands with digital design works and content curation for digital, print and multi- media.

3 responses »

  1. rbhalla2018 says:

    Your post is really great and I don’t want to invalidate your personal experiences/thoughts but I’d like to bring up my concerns with the term voicelessness. I think a lot of times we view people who are “voiceless” as people who are silent, but it doesn’t necessarily address people who are voiceless because they have been silenced or the intentionality behind this “voicelessness.” Are people not speaking up because they’ve historically and systematically been silenced? Does that make sense? In terms of media production, I wonder how many film makers are “giving a voice” rather than taking away people’s agency for marginalized groups to stand up? Regardless, I think that there’s a lot of good coming out of these media groups, just food for thought!

    • hannahmwebster says:

      Had you done the reading, you would probably recognize this terminology from Goodman’s article, and while I’m at it, I will give where credit is due: the Foreword was written by Maxine Greene. In Chapter 1 of Teaching Youth Media: a Critical Guide to Literacy, Video Production, and Social Change, Steven Goodman describes how instead of enabling “inner-city kids” “to speak for and represent themselves,” they “are rendered voiceless and invisible to the outside world.” Futhermore, I continue, “[This youth is] digitally captured, their sounds and images of commercially packaged rage are sold everywhere.” Note: This will be found on page 24-25, in the section that talks about the Two Systems of Authority: institutions, such as prison systems and the legal system, and mass media, a relatively new system of authority.

      I believe that we learn from [our] oppressors a way in which to act out our manliness, or our [gender] identities, and the [the oppressed group] struggles with “their perception of themselves as oppressed is impaired by their submersion in the reality of the oppression.” Back to your point, history plays in important part in nourishing false selfhood, but overcoming alienation and alienation itself is a result of an unjust order NOT a given destiny. (FILMMAKING is a form of speech, and being able to speak is a form of self-empowerment. Wouldn’t you concur?) Thus, “although [oppression] is a historical fact, [it] is not a given destiny but the result of an unjust order that engenders violence in the oppressors, which in turn dehumanizes the oppressed.” (Source: Paulo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”)

      Note: I think that any form of media or action that allows for brainstorming, or induces thought and conversation, between groups of people who feel marginalized by society and oppressive powers, is not equivalent to “taking away” a voice, in fact, I don’t understand the legitimacy of your argument. I do think that filmmakers who TEACH their craft and handing over the reigns of a media platform, while filmmakers who overshadow the process of reflection might be “taking away” from this effort to “stand up.” But let’s refer back to Freire: “who are better prepared than the oppressed to understand the terrible significance of an oppressive society? Who suffer the effects of oppression more than the oppressed? Who can better understand the necessity of liberation? THEY WILL NOT GAIN THIS LIBERATION BY CHANCE BUT THROUGH THE PRAXIS OF THEIR QUEST FOR IT […],” and I don’t think your remark, excuse me, “food for thought,” gives much credit to these people and groups rather testifies to a very awful thought-process that people, while I acknowledge their being conditioned by systems of authority, are oblivious to the fight and the resources they may use in this fight towards liberation.

      See me in class; maybe after you’ve done the Freire reading. I love a good conversation! @rbhalla2018

      • rbhalla2018 says:

        I’ve actually done both the readings, already. I’d be willing to talk more in class. I apologize if I offended you in any shape or form.

        I want to clarify that I asked these questions in terms of broader thinking, not specifically to this post and what was mentioned. Just broader concepts I got while reading this post.

        This was also a critique I had in Goodman’s piece as well. I understand why “voiceless” is being used and understand that you got it directly from the text but I think that it puts agency on the marginalized, victimizes them, and in a way blames them for not speaking up. This is my problem with the term in general.

        I’m also confused about part of your response. I was agreeing that it is important for marginalized groups to use media to speak up, that’s why I think youth media/work with EVC is incredibly powerful, because it gives marginalized youth resources to speak from their own experiences. I’d also like to bring up, while this is a great example, historically things taught to oppressed people by their oppressors are not always good. I do think that there is a difference, however in media done by marginalized groups for marginalized groups vs media done to increase awareness about issues marginalized groups face. I agree that both are incredibly important in furthering conversations and discussions but I do think there is a difference. For example, would Tongues Untied be just as powerful if a gay black man did not make it?

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